Cellular biomarker responses of limpets (Mollusca) as measure of sensitivity to cadmiumcontamination

  • Koot Reinecke Departement Plant- en Dierkunde, Universiteit van Stellenbosch, Privaatsak X1, Matieland, 7602, Suid-Afrika
  • Werner Schoeman Departement Plant- en Dierkunde, Universiteit van Stellenbosch, Privaatsak X1, Matieland, 7602, Suid-Afrika
  • Sophié Reinecke Departement Plant- en Dierkunde, Universiteit van Stellenbosch, Privaatsak X1, Matieland, 7602, Suid-Afrika
Keywords: Klipmossels, NRRT (neutraalrooi retensietyd), biomerker, metaal bioakkumulasie, Cd


Due to the availability and chemical nature of some heavy metals, sub-lethal toxicant levels may persist in the ocean waters and may cause physiological problems and toxicity in invertebrates and other marine organisms. Although studies of metal concentrations in False Bay showed relatively low mean concentrations of Cd, invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans and many other groups are able to accumulate high levels of heavy metals in their tissues and still survive in the heaviest polluted areas. They can accumulate numerous pollutants from natural waters in quantities that are many orders of magnitude higher than background levels. Bioaccumulation ofcadmium in intertidal species could cause stress which may be measurable at the cellular level. A variety of limpet species that may serve as suitable ecotoxicological monitoring species occur in abundance on rocky shores along the South African coastline. The aim of this study was to obtain sensitivity data which could contribute to the selection of a suitable monitoring species and the eventual establishment of a species sensitivity distribution model (SSD) with a biomarker responseas endpoint. The limpets Cymbula oculus, Scutellastra longicosta, Cymbula granatina and Scutellastragranularis as well as water samples were collected at two localities in False Bay, South Africa. Analysis of water and biological samples were done by atomic absorption spectrometry. Exposures were done to three different sublethal concentrations of cadmium in the laboratory in static flow tanks over three days. There was a moderate increase in cadmium body concentrations over time. Results obtained at three exposure concentrations showed no significant differences in metal concentrations between the different C. oculus samples. Significant differences were obtained between the control and the exposure groups for each exposure time except between the control and the 1mg/L CdCl2 exposure group after 24 and 72 hours of exposure. Cd body concentrations(soft tissue) varied between 4.56 and 21.41µg/g (wet mass).Mean Cd concentrations in soft tissue of S. longicosta was considerably lower (varying between 1.18 and 19.58 µg/g Cd ) than in the tissues of C. oculus. The control group differed significantly from the 0.8 and 1 mg/L CdCl2 exposures after 48 and 72 hours. Mean Cd body concentrations in S. granular is were the highest of all exposed species, reaching a level of 148 µg/g Cd at the highest exposure concentration and differed significantly from the means of the other samples of the 0.8 mg/L CdCl2 exposure group after 72 hours and from the 1 mg/L CdCl2 group after 24 hours. Significant differences were also obtained between theCd body concentrations of C. granatina for the three exposure concentrations and three exposure times. Lysosomal membrane integrity was determined for both exposed and control animals, using the neutral red retention assay. Three of the four species showed a significant decrease in retention times with an increase in Cd concentration. Inter-species differences in sensitivity to environmentally relevant cadmium concentrations were reflected in the biomarker responses. Based on reduction of NRR times, the order of relative sensitivity to cadmium was S. granularis >C. oculus> S. longicosta.> C.granatina.


Original Research